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Pentagon Admits Plan to Launch 1,300 Satellites Might Not Prevent Chinese or Russian Attacks

Pentagon Admits Plan to Launch 1,300 Satellites Might Not Prevent Chinese or Russian AttacksPhoto Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast/GettyA new Pentagon space agency wants to launch nearly 1,300 small satellites and, in the process, totally reinvent the way the military operates in orbit.The goal: to help the U.S. satellite constellation survive a sneak-attack by China or Russia. With hundreds of satellites in orbit, no single satellite is critically important, or so the thinking goes. If the Chinese or Russians were to knock out one or even dozens of satellites, scores more could take their place.But the new “mega-constellation” plan from the Space Development Agency might not actually work. The agency’s own director, Fred Kennedy, said it probably was “no panacea” against an enemy attack.It could be prohibitively expensive to deploy so many sats. Rocket launches are getting cheaper. But they might not yet be so cheap that the Pentagon could afford to conduct hundreds of them in a short span of time.In any event, the agency’s plan is advisory. The Pentagon could just ignore it. But the idea is interesting if no for other reason than its contrarianness. Today the U.S. military and other government agencies, universities and private companies together operate around 850 satellites, according to a count by the Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists. Second-place China has 280 satellites and Russia, in third place, has 150.But America’s satellites increasingly are vulnerable to attack, according to military officials. “China and Russia both are building direct-ascent weapons that can shoot down our satellites,” U.S. Air Force general John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said on Tuesday at the annual Space Symposium conference in Colorado Springs.“Direct-ascent weapon” is military parlance for “rocket.”That’s not all. Hyten also said Russia and China also are building lasers that can blind American spacecraft and jammers that cut the satellites’ links to controllers on the ground plus “on-orbit” weapons—in essence, kamikaze satellites that can ram into American sats.Not only are Moscow and Beijing building arsenals for taking down America’s space assets, they’re “doing it aggressively and quickly,” Hyten said.To be clear, the U.S. military has anti-satellite weapons of its own. And American sats aren’t exactly defenseless. Starting in 2018, the Air Force spent a billion dollars adding “resilience features” to some of its spacecraft. Resilience features might include better thrusters, allowing the spacecraft to maneuver more quickly in order to avoid attack. They may also include extra sensors on the spacecraft that act as a sort of orbital home-security system, monitoring the approach of potential assailants, according to James Oberg, an independent space expert and former NASA mission control specialist.“Now that autonomous mini-satellites can approach other satellites, sometimes without detection from the ground, space-based detection must be installed on the potential targets,” Oberg told me. The sensors could include cameras, radars, radio-signal detectors and “sniffers” that can track the energy from other satellites' thrusters, Oberg added.But the Space Development Agency, a small research organization that opened shop in March, wants to take a different approach. The Pentagon asked Congress for $ 150 million to fund the new agency through 2020.Rather than beefing up individual spacecraft, under the mega-constellation plan the military would simply buy lots more small, inexpensive satellites, reinforcing or replacing the roughly 170 large, expensive sats the armed forces currently operate.Speaking at the Colorado conference on Tuesday, Kennedy said he wants to see the Pentagon deploy “hundreds, perhaps even a thousand or more small satellites exhibiting a host of capabilities.”A graphic Kennedy displayed broke down the numbers of different kinds of spacecraft in the proposed mega-constellation. In all, 1,258 small satellites would crowd low orbit, scanning the Earth and space and relaying radio communications. Three copies of an “advanced maneuvering vehicle”—presumably some version of the Air Force’s secretive X-37B robotic mini-shuttle—would orbit above the other sats. Artificial intelligence would help ground-based controllers to maneuver and coordinate the hundreds of spacecraft, Kennedy said.But the plan hinges on very cheap space launches. Lots of them. In 2018, U.S. entities launched just 31, mostly big, satellites—many of which might remain in orbit a decade or longer. Since small satellites might last just a year or two, to build the mega-constellation the military could need to expand its launch activities by a factor of 20. It could be pricey. According to a 2018 paper by NASA researcher Harry Jones, the price per pound of a satellite launch has decreased from around $ 24,000 in the 1980s and 1990s to just $ 1,200 in 2019. But launching 600 or more satellites annually instead of 30 could more than offset the falling per-pound price of a launch.Kennedy acknowledged the downsides of his agency’s satellite plan. “We recognize that this isn’t the sum total of the nation's space construct,” he said. "We should not jump to extremes.”But even experimenting with a new approach to deploying satellites could result in better technology and methods that could make it harder for Russia or China to knock out America’s spacecraft, Kennedy said. “This puts us on a wonderfully disruptive path.”Kennedy said his agency would begin conducting conducting war games in order to test out the mega-constellation concept starting in 2022.Read more at The Daily Beast.



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Joe Biden denies kissing activist without consent but admits 'I may not recall these moments the same way'

Joe Biden denies kissing activist without consent but admits 'I may not recall these moments the same way'Former vice president Joe Biden – a man who would start as favourite among Democratic presidential candidates – has denied kissing a political activist without her consent, an accusation that could create problems for him if he enters the 2020 race.Two days after Lucy Flores, a Democratic activist and elected politician from Nevada, claimed Mr Biden had kissed her on the head at an event in 2014 and made her feel uncomfortable, he said he did not believe he had ever once “acted inappropriately”.Yet, he also admitted his memory may be different to that of others. “I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear,” he said in a statement on Sunday morning. “But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will.”Mr Biden, 76, has said he has “95 per cent” decided he will contest for the Democratic presidential nomination for 2020, and some reports suggest he will formally announce some time in April. If he does run, it would be his third attempt.An average of polls collated by Real Clear Politics puts Mr Biden a clear eight points ahead of his nearest Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, who in turn is eleven points clear of Kamala Harris. Beto O’Rourke is in fourth position, and Elizabeth Warren is in fifth.But while Mr Biden tops such polls, commentators have pointed out that after almost four decades in political life, the man who was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and has long seen himself as a champion of the working class, has considerable baggage.Ms Flores, a member of the Nevada state assembly and an activist with Mr Sanders’ Our Revolution group, said the vice president had “inhaled” her hair and kissed the back of her head just before she went on stage. The event was being held for him to endorse her Democratic candidacy. In an article published in The Cut, Ms Flores said: “I was mortified. I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t wash my hair today and the vice-president of the United States is smelling it. And also, what in the actual f***? Why is the vice-president of the United States smelling my hair?”> Statement from @JoeBiden this morning. pic.twitter.com/EbCchX2npU> > — Bill Russo (@BillR) > > March 31, 2019This is not the first time Mr Biden faced criticism over seminally awkward or inappropriate interactions with women in public.In 2015, the Washington Post’s comedy writer Alexandra Petri wrote an article titled “What are we going to do about Creepy Uncle Joe Biden?”. The name has stuck.On Sunday morning, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway, took an opportunity to attack Mr Biden. In an interview on Fox News, Ms Conway said Ms Flores, was “very bold to come forward” against someone in her own political party and wondered why Mr Biden had not apologised to her.Mr Biden also faces questions about his age and his questionable record on race relations.While commentators say some African Americans – especially older ones – could back his candidacy because of the support the provided to Barack Obama’s presidency, they also point to his support of the controversial 1994 crime bill that discriminated against minority communities, and his disrespectful questioning of Anita Hill when she testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.In recent weeks, Mr Biden met with Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost her bid to win the governorship of Georgia last year. Reports have suggested, Mr Biden’s advisors have been considering the option of him announcing with a declared running mate, and that they would love Ms Abrams, an African American and a rising star within the party, to be on the ticket with him.



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Polish church admits clergy abused hundreds of children

Polish church admits clergy abused hundreds of childrenPoland’s powerful Catholic church on Thursday published a report admitting that nearly 400 of its clergy had sexually abused children and minors over the last three decades, reflecting findings published last month by a charity focused on abuse in the church. The Polish Bishops’ Conference said in its report that it found 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims, including 198 under 15 years of age and 184 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18. The statistical report which covers the period between 1990 and 2018, did not include the names of perpetrators.



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Cardinal admits Church files on paedophile priests 'destroyed'

Cardinal admits Church files on paedophile priests 'destroyed'A top Catholic cardinal admitted Saturday that Church files on priests accused of sexually abusing children were destroyed or never even drawn up in a move which allowed paedophiles to prey on others. German Cardinal Reinhard Marx was speaking on the third day of an unprecedented summit of the world’s top bishops convened by Pope Francis in a bid to tackle the crisis over paedophilia within the clergy. “Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created,” Marx told the landmark Vatican summit on a problem that has dogged the Roman Catholic Church for decades.



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'And I did inhale': Kamala Harris admits marijuana use

'And I did inhale': Kamala Harris admits marijuana useSen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said in a new interview that she supports the legalization of marijuana — admitting that she has not only smoked pot, she has inhaled.



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Virginia AG Admits He Wore Blackface at College Party

Virginia AG Admits He Wore Blackface at College PartyVirginia attorney general Mark Herring, who would assume the governorship should Governor Ralph Northam and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax resign due to their own scandals, admitted Wednesday that he wore blackface at a college party in 1980. “In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow and perform a song,” Herring wrote in a statement. Herring’s revelation is the latest in a string of scandals that have embroiled Virginia Democrats in recent days.



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Mark Herring: Top Virginia Democrat admits wearing blackface as state scandal deepens

Mark Herring: Top Virginia Democrat admits wearing blackface as state scandal deepensVirginia Attorney General Mark Herring has confirmed he wore blackface to a college party in 1980, just days after calling on the state’s governor to resign over a similar racial scandal.



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Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admits wearing blackface

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admits wearing blackfaceVirginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted Wednesday that he, too, once wore blackface in the 1980s.



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In Trump era, Nancy Pelosi admits to nostalgia about George W. Bush. Here's why

In Trump era, Nancy Pelosi admits to nostalgia about George W. Bush. Here's whyNancy Pelosi says taking on Donald Trump will differ from sparring with George W. Bush. With Trump, she says, there's no agreement on basic facts.



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Police chief admits there isn't Zika in meth after Facebook post goes viral

Police chief admits there isn't Zika in meth after Facebook post goes viralThe Harahan Police Department never had reason to believe Zika, a mosquito-born virus, was able to contaminate meth.



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